High blood pressure in the little ones

  • By Dr. Neha Agrawal

If you are asked to paint a picture of a patient of hypertension, how would it look?

Leave the details aside, would you paint an old person, a young person or a child? Most likely, you will paint an old person or may be a middle-aged person. But a child, who would think of a child to have high blood pressure!

It may be difficult to believe for most but not only is it possible, its incidence is also increasing gradually. In fact, hypertension in kids is becoming quite common.

Studies in USA show that up to 5% children and adolescents have hypertension.

What is it?

High blood pressure in children and adolescents is also called as pediatric hypertension. Pediatric hypertension is defined by the blood pressure recorded on the mercury, in comparison to the given standard range. As a child grows, there is rapid development in all the milestones. For children, there are percentiles defined for all parameters for various age groups. In children, when the blood pressure is above the 90th percentile but below the 95th, it is called prehypertension. When it is above 95th percentile, it is diagnosed as hypertension.

There are no distinguishing symptoms of pediatric hypertension, so it may easily be missed. Please make it a practice to get your child’s blood pressure checked on routine visits for medical examination.

Why does it happen?

High blood pressure in children under ten years of age is usually secondary to some other health condition. It could be due to an underlying heart disease, kidney disease, hormonal disorders or genetic abnormalities. This demands treatment of the main problem.

Primary hypertension is noted in older children, over 6-10 years of age and adolescents. There is no specific cause identified for this, other than lifestyle, obesity, rich foods and family history.

How bad could it get?

Children may show a disordered sleep pattern when they have hypertension. They may suffer from sleep apnea, reflected by snoring or abnormal breathing. Besides sleep, the other effects of hypertension are the known ones. In the long run, it could lead to heart disease, stroke or kidney disease.

What to do?

It is very important to control the blood pressure from a young age. Regular check-ups and monitoring of the BP is needed. Thorough examination is a must to identify whether the hypertension is primary or secondary.

Treatment by medicines is recommended in secondary hypertension, where the underlying condition is to be tackled along with the management of blood pressure.

In cases of primary hypertension, medication is suggested only in extreme cases. Otherwise, lifestyle management is the key. It is not a healthy option to start anti-hypertensives this early in life. Give your child healthy food, help him/her maintain the ideal body weight and make sure he/she gets enough exercise physically. The sooner we identify the problem, the better are the results with a disciplined lifestyle.

The unhealthy lifestyle is creating chaos in all our lives. How long the kids would have escaped? Our lifestyle reflects on our kids. Follow a healthy routine and keep the family healthy!